7 BUCKET-LIST WORTHY GAME OF THRONES SHOOTING LOCALES

Words: Jo Piazza
Photo above: Doune Castle, Jaime González Photography

Who travels better than a Targaryen? Than a Stark? Than a Baratheon? No one.   

Their pilgrimages in Game of Thrones are epic, as are the TV shooting locations for the lands of fire and ice. And for good reason. Westeros is a complicated world and GOT has one of the most ambitious filming schedules of any TV program pretty much ever, simultaneously covering different continents for a single episode.

Primed for serious adventure-seekers, these wish-list filming spots should go on your bucket list right now.

1. Dubrovnik, Croatia

This baroque city on the Adriatic checks all the boxes for dream destination — adventure, beautiful beaches, beautiful people, history, culture, and delectable food.

Begin your trip to Dubrovnik — stand-in for Kings Landing, capital of the seven kingdoms — with a Viator walking tour of GoT locations that meanders through the UNESCO-anointed Old Town.

Up the adventure factor by climbing the historic walls. Dozens of tour operators offer the two-hour walk high up on the city’s medieval fortifications, but it’s just as easy to do on your own. 

Dubrovnik from above.

© Croatian Tourism Board, Damir Fabijanić

Insider tip:

End your day at Buza beach, a rocky strand right at the foot of the walls where both male and female sunbathers are very lax about covering up.

2. Northern Ireland

Make Belfast your home for a few nights to explore the land of the Starks and many of the Winterfell shooting locations (easy to do with the aptly named Winterfell Tours). The Castle Ward demesne was used extensively for filming 20 different locations.

Insider Tip: 

Want to meet the actual direwolves? Yup, brothers Odin and Thor, a pair of Northern Inuit dogs used during filming, are available for a visit by advance appointment.

The Azure Window on the Maltese island of Gozo.

© Giovanni Maroni

3. Gozo, Malta

A wildly popular spot with scuba divers, the Azure Window on Gozo’s northwestern coastline served as the backdrop for Daenerys’ and Drogo’s raucous Dothraki wedding. In addition to being home to many GOT locations (most of Season One was filmed on Malta and Gozo), Gozo draw serious divers with its caves, caverns, and shipwrecks. Check in with the Scuba Kings for a variety of trips around the Mediterranean sister islands of Gozo, Malta, and Comino.

Insider Tip:

While in the islands, indulge in a fine wine you’ll never find in the States. The Maltese don’t export their wines (they drink it all themselves, or so they say) and a few euros will give you enough liquid courage to take your night to the next level.

The fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou in Morocco.

© Singa Hitam

4. Morocco

The savvy traveler knows to exit Marrakesh as quickly as possible to experience the real Morocco. Depart the crowded city early in the morning to cross through the imposing High Atlas Mountains and into the Ounila Valley to reach the red citadel of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a fortified city on the ancient Saharan caravan route and the setting for the fictional city of Yunkai where Daenarys famously took on the slavers.

Head back north and settle into the walled beach town of Essaouira, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and the fictional city of Astapor, the Red City and home of the Unsullied eunuch army.

Insider Tip:

Take advantage of the strong trade winds in Essaouira, which make the Atlantic coast popular with board fanatics the world over for both wind and kite surfing.

 

The Gardens of Alcazar in Spain.

© Tilo 2006

5. Seville, Spain

There are few palaces as perfect as Spain’s Alcázar  to truly make Westeros come alive. Blending Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance styles, this fortress with its cool courtyards and gold shimmering dome is the backdrop for the Water Gardens of the House of Martel. 

Insider Tip:

Embrace Spanish culture by sleeping late, exploring the rich history by day, taking a late-afternoon siesta, and then dancing until dawn with the locals.

The far reaches of Vatnajökull park in Iceland.

© Richard Whitaker

6. Iceland

To get beyond the Wall you’ll need to head to one of the most barren and remote locations on the planet, Iceland. Don’t worry about running into any White Walkers, but dangerous conditions — volcanic eruptions, avalanches, unpaved roads, and notoriously unpredictable weather — make any visit to the Icelandic backcountry an adventure. Sign up for a tour with local guide Jon Thor Benediktsson who guided the GOT crew during filming for the third season. 

Insider Tip:

You can rent your own 4x4 for a self-driving exploration along the country’s 800-mile Ring Road (the single road that circumnavigates the island) to visit Iceland’s largest ice cap, 3,200-square-mile Vatnajökull glacier, which is the backdrop for many of the icy battles between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings.

scotland game of thrones

Explore the Scottish countryside on a self-guided adventure.

© Pixabay

7. Scotland

Both Scotland and Winterfell are known for their strong drink and stronger women. About an hour North of Glasgow, Doune Castle, a medieval stronghold and one of the sets for Winterfell, is the perfect starting point for your Scottish adventure.

 

Insider Tip: 

Once you’ve toured the castle and Instagrammed the requisite photos, make like Arya Stark and head off alone into the countryside on a self-guided bothy adventure. A bothy is the ruins of any old building in the Scottish countryside remade as a basic shelter for trekkers and campers. Plot your trip using the guide from the Mountain Bothies Association.

Like every Scotsman, every bothy has its own unique story and personality. Bring your own food, your own Scotch whiskey, and a story to share — and you’ll find friends for life sitting around the fire.

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04 2016 The Red Bulletin

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